PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Inmates and their accomplices illegally filing for and receiving an average of $10,000 each in pandemic assistance is happening on a massive scale.

KDKA has learned that this scheme is being perpetrated not only by inmates in Pennsylvania but all across country. U.S Attorney Scott Brady says it could deprive taxpayers of billions.

“I think we’re talking about billions of dollars nationally and what that means is that that’s billions of dollars not available to families that are really hurting,” Brady said.

KDKA first discovered the fraud on a recorded phone call at Allegheny County Jail. Inmate Lamont Wilford awaiting trial for murder is suspected of working with his girlfriend on the outside to secure about $10,000 dollars of pandemic unemployment assistance.

Wednesday U.S. Attorney Scott Brady and Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro charged 33 inmates and accomplices statewide with defrauding COVID-19 relief.

But Brady says they’ve already identified more 10,000 state inmates defrauding rightful recipients — hardworking people out of work due to the virus.

“Might be waitresses, factory workers, friends, neighbors — we all know folks who have been affected by this. Those are 10,000 people that have a right to this. That’s why the CARES Act was passed and they’re not able to because these men and women stole from them,” he says.

Brady says he’s been in touch with U.S. attorneys across the nation who will soon be announcing similar charges against scores of inmates milking billions of dollars in pandemic unemployment assistance from within jail and prisons.

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